Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Aztecs, by Richard F. Townsend


The Aztecs, by Richard F. Townsend provides a look at the Aztec civilization from its formation through the Spanish Conquest. This is the sort of book I would recommend only if you are interested in in-depth research of the Aztec civilization. I found this book to be thorough and interesting, especially the information about the Aztec religion and way of life. The parts about the military expansion of the empire over the reign of several tlatoanis (kings, basically) was more difficult to get through, especially due to the complex nature of the Aztec names. An example sentence can be found on page 74--I read this several times before retaining any of it:

“Enlisting the help of Netzahualcoyotl (the future tlatoani of Tetzcoco who, for the moment, still resided in Tenochtitlan) and Totoquilhuaztli, tlatoani of the allied Tepanec town of Tlacopan, the Mexica leader conducted successful campaigns against Culhuacan, Xochimilco, Cuitlahuac, Mixquic, and several smaller dependencies.”

Once I slogged through the people and places related to the Aztec expansion, the rest of the book was quite interesting. I knew the Aztecs were a bloody people, but I always thought somehow that the tales of their sacrifices had been exaggerated for use on the big screen. Not so. Apparently, Ahuizotl, the most violent leader of them all, rededicated the Great Pyramid with non-stop sacrifices for 4 days straight. No wonder the Spanish were horrified. But if you can overlook that, they really had an advanced civilization, with a complex system of agriculture, elaborate trade routes, and amazing skill with metal-work, pottery, weaving, etc. Anyway, I don’t expect anyone to go out and pick this one up unless you have quite an interest in the Aztecs. Still, since I am doing research on the Aztecs, I thought it was a valuable resource.


21 comments:

Amanda said...

Wow Jen, that passage you quoted is amazingly convoluted to my non-Aztec-inducted ears. I applaud your ability to get through that!

Jen said...

Yeah, some of those names are real tongue-twisters. I'm sure if I pronounced them out loud I'd botch them royally, even with the author's helpful tips, such as "X" sounding like "Sh".

Jason Gignac said...

I know the feeling, Ms Ninedorf. It's always a little odd to read anything that's too specialized. The other day I found myself looking at a book about the history of the Parisian sewers, and immediately thought 'gee, I'll be this book doesn't have a wide market...'

Jason Gignac said...

Err... Flannery, that is. Don't take it personally, I still get called Roper, sometimes.

Jen said...

Hmm, a book about Parisian sewers--that has "coffee table book" written all over it.

Ninedorf is fine, or Flanary, no big deal.

Byron said...

Jen, I'm curious:

Why are you studying the Aztecs?

Jason Gignac said...

Two words for you Byron:

Secret Cult

Jen said...

Hmmm, maybe I should just leave it to your imagination. Something about their cruelty, efficiency in sacrifice of their enemies, etc. Nothing you need to worry about, Byron.

Actually, I have an idea for a book. But I don't want to jinx it by talking about it.

Jason Gignac said...

Yeah, Jen told me not to say anything about it, so let's just say, when you get to the scene where the school teacher is sacificing the kitten in science class, you'll want to make sure you're sitting down, before the Aztec god enters the room and turns the children into... well... maybe I shouldn't say, that would kind of give it away...

Byron said...

Hah! After my study of the Shaolin Viking Ninja monks from Tibet, I'm not afraid of anything you can dish up.

Cool. Good luck with that. If you need any ideas, the whole Eskimo/Aztec forbidden love affair thing is a relatively untouched plot. Just so you know.

Jen said...

Jason, that's proprietary material!

And Byron, would that plot involve time travel? I could work with that. Have your people get with my people.

Byron said...

The first line:

"Call me Tlacqxtuictlatl."

Amanda said...

Add some zombies and it'll be perfect!

Jen said...

Yessss! I love it.

Amanda said...

Byron! I love that first line!

Jason Gignac said...

No, no, that's the sequel. This one starts with:

"It was the best of time, it was the worst of times. Unless you were not a member of the death cult of Huxcltayltl, in which case you were likely to end up disembowelled on the the horns of her altars. Then, it was pretty much just the worst of times."

Amanda said...

Wow! Jason, you need to enter that in the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Except you have to make that last line set off by an em-dash rather than a period. That's a winning opening sentence!

Okay, this is my third attempt. It worked in the preview last time but not once I actually hit 'submit.' If this doesn't work, I'll put in my comment without the html. Sorry.

Jen said...

OK, you guys have some great ideas. Don't submit that line Jason--I might just use it and pay you royalties.

Jason Gignac said...

No, no, Jen, you just keep it, it's yours. My treat. Such as it were.

Jen said...

Thanks, I won't forget you in the Introduction.

Jason Gignac said...

Just don't dedicate it to me or anything. I wouldn't want Don coming after me in his kilt. I hear he's a mean hand with a claymore.